We Need to Decriminalize Drugs


Photograph Scott Beveridge

The biggest problem with illegal drugs is that they’re illegal. The war on drugs has cost billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money, countless law enforcement hours, overcrowded our prisons, and given rise to violent street gangs. In the state of Kansas, where I live, a person can be sentenced for up to one year imprisonment and a $2,500 fine for their first conviction of even the tiniest amount of marijuana (NORML). Have these draconian measures stopped drug use in America? Hardly.

Should drug use be stopped? Most would probably say “yes”. I disagree. The United States is supposed to be a free country. The Declaration of Independence states in the preamble that among our inalienable rights are “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Why then does the government prohibit–at great expense–adult citizens from possessing, growing, or using harmless drugs like marijuana?

We experimented with prohibition in the 1920s and early 1930s when the government made it illegal to manufacture, transport, import, export, sale, and possess alcoholic beverages. This experiment was a disaster. Violent gangs and racketeering proliferated under these laws. The black market flourished providing illegal booze to those who wished to partake. These same things are now happening as a result of our war on drugs.

If drugs were legalized they could be taxed and regulated, violent criminals wouldn’t have to be released due to overcrowding, and violent street gangs would dwindle.

Marijuana is not addictive and hasn’t resulted in a single death. Alcohol, by these standards, is much more harmful yet is legal to manufacture, transport, sell, and consume. Marijuana deserves at least the same status.

I’d love to read you comments.

3 Comment

  1. Hello, I just had a few comments on your blog to decriminalize drugs. Personally, I don’t consider marijuana a “drug” but a plant which, yes, it should be legalized WITH a list of precautions. Marijuana like any herb isn’t “harmless”. A great example would be my mother. After using the natural “safe” herb ma huang for an energy boost regularly for a year she was diagnosed with congestive heart failure in 1996 which almost killed her. Three years later I was by her side as she was receiving seven blood transfusions for a bleeding stomach ulcer caused by over the counter aspirin. The dr. told me she could pass away anytime as her heart in it’s weakened state might not be able to handle the transfusions. Fortunately she lived through the ordeal.

    A nonchalant dismissive attitude regarding marijuana as “non addictive” and “harmless” I just can’t agree with at all. Three of the most common side effects I’ve witnessed first hand are:

    1) An extreme increase in heart rate along with a sharp rise in blood pressure resulting in anxiety and paranoia. (I actually had to take an ex boyfriend to the emergency room in high school for this! – His BP was 200/130 and HR was 180!)
    2) Yes, there is a physical dependency depending on the amount of THC and frequency of use.
    3) Respiratory problems like that of smokers, damage to lung tissue and the lovely phlegmy cough. Actually the level of carbon monoxide absorbed is 3-5 times greater then that of tobacco!

    Finally, legalizing the hard drugs like cocaine and heroin which are highly addictive and not only wreck the lives of the users but the lives of their families would be irresponsible. How would legalizing these addictive drugs thereby making it easier to obtain them help with anything?

    Legalizing meth? Aside from the hideous detrimental effects on the body—picture this—Joe Smith needs some extra money, he decides to brew some meth, it’s easy enough to make and can be made in an area as small as the trunk of a car! During the cooking procedure horrendous toxic fumes are emitted. Fires along with explosions are a common occurrence – oh- Joe Smith is your neighbor in the apartment complex. Don’t worry, it’s all legal. Now that paints a ludicrous picture!

    I know you asked for comments so that’s why I wrote, I’ve had too many years seeing the real side of drugs in my personal and professional life while I was a P.I.. Yes, marijuana should be legalized with warnings and no, hard drugs should not.

  2. Thank you for the comment Monique.  You’re the first!  I owe you some kind of prize.
    While I appreciate your arguments I maintain my position that drug laws should be overturned. You may be correct about the harmful physical effects of some drugs.     However, there has never been a single documented case of a fatality due to marijuana use. In fact, Judge Francis L. Young found in the US DoJ DEA Marijuana Rescheduling Petition that:

    Nearly all medicines have toxic, potentially lethal effects. But marijuana is not such a substance. There is no record in the extensive medical literature describing a proven, documented cannabis-induced fatality.

    He went on to state that…

    …in order to induce death a marijuana smoker would have to consume 20,000 to 40,000 times as much marijuana as is contained in one marijuana cigarette. NIDA-supplied marijuana cigarettes weigh approximately .9 grams. A smoker would theoretically have to consume nearly 1,500 pounds of marijuana within about fifteen minutes to induce a lethal response.

    I’m glad we agree marijuana should be legalized.  Science, as usual, trumps hype and anecdotal evidence.

    The cost of the drug war, as I stated, is very high.  Many thousands of people are senselessly slaughtered growing, trafficking, and selling drugs on the black market.  Those deaths are caused by the illegality of drugs.  In a world without drug laws people would die from drugs, no doubt.  But they’re dying from them now and they’re not legal.  Consider for just a moment the drop in crime we might have if law enforcement efforts currently focused on stopping drug use were directed to stopping violent crime.

    The government should not protect us from ourselves.  And it is an uncomfortable fact that in a free society bad things occasionally happen to innocent people because of other reckless and irresponsible citizens.  That’s a downside of freedom I’m willing to accept.  The price we would have to pay to protect everyone from everyone and everything is too great.  Prohibition didn’t work in the ’20s and ’30s and it isn’t working now.

    If my post seemed careless, callous, or indifferent I apologize.  Drug abuse is an enormous problem plaguing individuals, families, and communities.  Drug laws, however, have proven to be an ineffective solution.

  3. Don’t think a side effect when you first start is going to be a permanent effect. I have one med I didn’t sleep for more than 35 hours after two days of partial doses of it. WBR LeoP

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